Fail at Social Media

Kristine Shreve EnMart

Kristine Shreve is the Director of Marketing for EnMart and parent company Ensign Emblem. She developed and writes two blogs—the EnMart Threaducuate blog and the SubliStuff blog. Shreve also maintains the EnMart Twitter account and Facebook page. She can be reached via email at

Social media, despite all the articles and webinars and books and sites and gurus out there claiming otherwise, is not an exact science. For those managing company social media efforts, believing there is a magic secret is a seductive thought. If there were a social media silver bullet, we wouldn’t have to test and try and examine and sometimes get things wrong. But the real secret of social media is that the method of “getting it right” varies from business to business. There are actually very few hard and fast rules for doing social media well. There are, however, several ways to turn a social media plan into a disaster. If you do want to get social media “right” here are some things not to do.

Sell, sell, sell!

I may not be the first to use the phrase, but I once wrote a blog post claiming that, if all you said was “sell, sell” your customers would soon be saying “bye-bye.” Obviously, if you’re creating business social media feeds, one of your primary goals is to make more sales and build your customer lists, and those aren’t bad goals. When those goals become a problem is when they’re all you do on your feeds. No one wants to be sold all the time. 

Alternate action: Remember that social media is about community, education and building trust. If you communicate, educate and build connections, the sales will come.

Believe in every silver bullet 

All the so-called social media gurus and experts out there have to keep themselves busy and keep your attention. One way to do that is to claim to have the silver bullet that will revolutionize your social media program. 

Alternate action: The secret to success on social media is to test, over and over, until you find out what works for your audience and what makes them respond. You know your market and you should know your customers better than any “social media expert” ever could. While they can recommend techniques and suggest methods, it’s up to you to test their suggestions and your own ideas to find out what works best for you.

Believe that more is better

There are people and sites out there that claim they can get you 10,000 fans, or that more fans equal more business. I don’t doubt these sites can generate likes, but generating likes isn’t really that difficult. You can have 10,000 fans, but if 9,998 of them aren’t interested in your product or service, you’ve really got nothing. 

Alternate action: Generate likes or follows from the right people—those people in your target market who are likely to be the customers for what you’re selling.

Be a social media introvert 

Social media is about community and connection. If all you do is post messages on your page and never interact with anyone else, you’re missing the majority of the social media experience. You’re also missing a great opportunity to connect and build trust with potential customers. Alternate action: Respond to those who comment on your page. Like and comment on other people’s posts. The more you reach out, the more you’ll find people reaching back.

Self-promote incessantly

Your page is about promoting your business. It’s the place where you should post sales and specials and the other information you want your customers to know. It is not appropriate to post your information on other people’s pages, even if it is disguised as a post related to that person. It is inappropriate to comment on other people’s posts purely for the purpose of self-promotion.
Alternate action: If the reply to a question on someone else’s page involves what you do or sell, that’s fine, but if what you do or sell is irrelevant to the conversation, don’t mention it.

Follow indiscriminately

I definitely understand the lure of building up the number of likes or follows for your social media account. After all, more is better, right? In the world of social media, despite what others might say, more isn’t always more. Talking to a million random people won’t help you achieve what you want to achieve.

Alternate action: I’m a big fan of strategic following (following with your target market or a specific goal in mind). This helps ensure that your content gets to the right people. Strategic following will help you find them.

Ignore your feeds 

It’s tough to capture people’s attention, but it’s very easy to lose it. One of the easiest ways to do that is to let your feeds lie fallow for months.
Alternate action: There is no optimum schedule for social media posting, but your feeds need to stay active fairly regularly. If you start a feed, make sure you’re committed to keeping it going.

Flood the feed

We all know time is precious and updating social media feeds can be time-consuming. I’m guessing that’s why some people feel they should maximize any posting time they have by creating several posts (sometimes as many as 10 or 20) in a row. While I understand the inclination, the execution is only going to annoy people. No one wants to be bombarded with a large number of posts from a single account at one time. This technique will generally result in your account being ignored at best and unfollowed at worst. 

Alternate action: If you want to knock out a bunch of posts at once, write them and then schedule them to post at different times.

Be monotone 

Let’s face it, every post you create isn’t going to be a home run. Some will get a lot of attention, some, a little, and others, none at all. If all you do is post the same thing over and over again, you’ll soon find that those who are following your feeds will get bored and move on. 

Alternate action: The trick here is to vary what you post. You can send the same message but make sure you’re presenting it in different ways.

Constantly cross-promote

A little cross promotion is fine, there’s nothing wrong with inviting your Twitter followers to your Facebook page, or mentioning the latest cool thing you pinned to Pinterest on your Twitter feed. Cross promotion only becomes a problem if you’re doing it constantly. 

Alternate action: Make sure your message is tailored for and easily viewable on whatever platform you’re using at the time. If someone is on Twitter, they may not choose to go look at your photo on Facebook. The idea is to hook people where they are, not to post useless messages telling them to go somewhere else.

Post the same thing across all platforms 

Tweets are 140 characters. Pinterest and Instagram are primarily about pictures. Each social media platform requires messages to be structured in a slightly different way if they are to be effective. While the content of the message may be the same, the method of effective delivery can vary quite a bit depending on the platform.
Alternate action: Make sure your messages are structured to be effective on the platform on which they appear.

Automate and ignore 

Social media can be time-consuming. Social media management options do exist and automation is not necessarily a bad thing. One claim that is often made is that automation can help with that problem. But, if someone comments on a post on your feed and doesn’t get a response until weeks later, that’s bad. It should also be noted that things can change in an instant, and a post that seems like a good idea three weeks ago may not be a good idea today. 

Alternate action: The trick is to make sure that someone is still watching the feeds and being responsive. Monitoring and responsiveness, even if your feed is mostly automated, is key.

Don’t use business pages

Facebook offers Pages for businesses and brands. Pinterest has a business option, as does Twitter. These social media sites offer business options because they know that businesses need more analytic feedback and want more options for advertising and monitoring the competition than individual users do. 

Alternate action: Take advantage of the additional services that business pages offer. It will help you understand your followers and fans, help keep business separate from personal, and help make your business branding appear more professional.

So there you have it—13 common bad habits for social media and an even 13 ways to break them. Follow these guidelines and use your best judgment to make your social media efforts pay off.